Serie A has lost a modern legend with the passing of Gianluca Vialli, someone who was a fan favorite at every stage of his career.
Gianluca Vialli’s death on Friday robbed Italian football of an iconic figure of its golden era, a powerful yet studious center-forward who won almost every honor and was one of the English Premier League’s first big-name foreign imports.
Vialli, who had battled pancreatic cancer since 2017 before finally succumbing to what he called “an unwanted guest” at the age of 58, was the archetypal Italian ‘signore’, a well-dressed, well-spoken gentleman who nonetheless thrived in the bruising world of Italian football.
His glittering club career saw him at one point become the world’s most expensive player when Juventus paid Sampdoria 16.5 million euros in 1992 and he ended his career with one final successful spell at Chelsea.
The son of a self-made millionaire, Vialli grew up in a 60-room castle in his native Cremona.
His bustling style of forward play belied his comfortable upbringing and led him to the greatest heights at club level.
During most of the 1980s and early 1990s he was part of a devastating strike partnership at Sampdoria with Roberto Mancini, one of Italy’s most naturally gifted players of the era, which carried the Genoa-based team to unprecedented levels of success and led to them being nicknamed “the goal twins”.
The former striker broke through a local side Cremonese in 1980, quickly making a name for himself with his reliability and instinct for goal. After four years with his hometown club, Vialli made one of the most important moves of his career, signing for Sampdoria.
On the Ligurian coast, Gianluca Vialli rediscovered his boyhood friend Roberto Mancini and the pair formed an unforgettable partnership at Sampdoria, earning the nickname ‘the goal twins’. The duo guided the Blucerchiati to their most successful ever period, picking up their first ever Scudetto, three Coppa Italia titles and a second-place finish in the European Cup.
After an incredible eight-year spell with Sampdoria, Vialli joined Juventus in 1992 for a then-world-record fee of £12.5m. After a slow start, the Cremona-born forward became a key player in Turin, helping them win a Scudetto and the Champions League in 1996.
The final three years of his career were spent with Chelsea, where he earnt the love of the fans in West London. Vialli was briefly player-manager of the club before hanging up his boots to focus on his coaching role in 1999.
Gianluca Vialli stepped away from the dugout after a brief spell with Watford and worked as a pundit on Italian television before joining Mancini’s Italy set-up in October 2019 as the new delegation chief. He was a key part of the team that won Euro 2020, being an important role model for the players and working well with his childhood friend.
Vialli was a much-beloved figure in the world of Italian football and his death at the age of 58 will long be felt in the peninsula.